Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Financial Offside

For many people, the offside rule is the most confusing part of soccer. The concept seems difficult and it can be tough to track in real time but overall most soccer people understand the concept. The problem is that in the heat of the moment, our vision gets skewed by emotion. I recall distinctly saying to a group of my players at the college level, “By the way that you complain, we must never be offside.” The comment wasn’t lost on them and they became more discerning about whether or not they were being honest with themselves about the calls being made. Being able to see the objective truth, rather than our preferred truth is extremely important in a lot of areas, especially finance!

The idea of financial offside is a simple one that most people should see as blatantly obvious. Yet much like the players that I mentioned above, we tend to get blinded by our emotions in many situations. The simple version of financial offside is “don’t spend money that you don’t have!” Again! Like the offside rule, there are caveats to this pretty basic concept. Things like mortgages and other loans are “money that you don’t have” but are often necessary in many instances. The financial offside rule is more about those unnecessary purchases that are made out of desire and not necessity. The “shiny objects” that are going to fill an emotional hole for a moment but most likely will not fill a practical need. If you have unlimited means, absolutely buy to your heart’s content. However, if you’re like most people, you probably need to be aware of the invisible moving line of your finances. It moves on a daily, weekly and yearly basis. The line is drawn at the last dollar that you have liquid in your possession. Credit blurs the line slightly. So being aware of whether, you’re over the line, approaching the line or completely onside is something that you should know. Don’t make the assumption that my players did! You’re not always onside, just because it’s you! Your emotional justification of the reasons why you’ve crossed over have nothing to do with the cold hard fact. When you’ve spent more than you have, you’re creating problems for yourself!

So here are two simple ideas that can actually help to keep you “onside” in your finances. They are similar to ideas that work in soccer.

  • Wait! – Lots of unnecessary purchases are made out of the emotion of the moment. Let the moment pass. If you practice this strategy on a regular basis, it will become easier. Delaying a purchase until you’ve considered the financial impact will protect you from poor purchases.
  • Pay attention – You need to regularly check in on your finances. They are not one of those friends that you don’t see for years and just pick up where you left off. Depending on who you are, the check in may need to be as often as daily. Being afraid to face the truth is no excuse and once you know the truth, planning is easier.

Finances are a scary concept for a lot of people. Just like the offside rule, they can seem difficult but I’m trying to help fix that issue. Later in the summer, my co-author and I will be releasing a book that explains finances using soccer as a metaphor. Financial offside is such a simple concept that it’s not included in the book but I figured I’d put the idea out there as a bit of a “teaser”.

Pete

Blogpost, posh, SoccerLifeBalance

The Half Frozen Pond (and POSH)

The fully frozen pond is a slick but relatively safe walking space. It can be used for all manner of frivolity including ice skating, hockey, ice fishing or even Curling. The completely unfrozen pond offers an equal measure of possibility with swimming, boating, fishing, diving or just floating. The dangerous pond is the half frozen pond. It offers nothing but uncertainty. At any moment, the surface can crack and leave you in a scramble for survival with hypothermia and drowning both being real possibilities. It is the one to fear and avoid.

The same can be said for commitment to a team. Fully committed players make a good team into a great one because they are not just in it for themselves. The completely uncommitted players are often put on the bench or removed from the team. Just like the ice, the half-committed players are the ones that are dangerous because it’s hard to tell when they’ll crack under the pressure. While players are the easiest to identify with this metaphor, it works equally for fans, management, ownership, etc. Commitment is not just for one group of people to rectify. It is something for all of the different groups who are attached to the club to consider and contribute their part.

This season has been a disappointment to say the least. The POSH looked promising at times early in the season, even without a recognized striker. As time wore on, the pond began to melt and became unstable. The manager was the one who fell through as he was given the cold shoulder by several of the players. Now Grant McCann has been given the task of mending the cracks. With twelve matches remaining and the POSH eight points (plus goal difference) adrift; the team, fans, management, and ownership need to be solid for that time. This is not a task for one or even a handful to complete. At best that is more of the half frozen status quo that has brought us to this point. Everyone who steps onto the pitch, all of the fans in the stands and the ones at home need to solidify in their commitment to the one and only objective: staying in the Championship! The opportunity is not gone. It is only difficult.

My hope is that Peterborough has a cold spring, not literally, you get the metaphor! Rock solid!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

True to Form

It’s a pretty typical thing in soccer to describe a player as “in form.” Consistent performance is something that people value from players regardless of the level. The markers for form vary from position to position and league to league. Despite the fact there is variation, people know when a player is in form.

Most of us are never going to play professionally, so the idea of being in form is largely irrelevant. The more important factor in most of our lives would be the concept of being “true to form.” In my mind; this is the idea of showing up the same way over and over again. People know what to expect from you before you get there. This may fly in the face of being your “authentic self”. However, the idea of being whomever you want at any given moment is unrealistic anyway. It is far more powerful to be a person that people know and understand. Be true to form.

It may look foolish now but at the time, we LOVED these jerseys!

The final piece to this that I’d like to add is keep improving your form. Incrementally get better over time in whatever matters to you. Consistency is a valuable characteristic but who you are today should never be the goal. People love you exactly as you are but sometimes that’s problematic. You are not a finished article! Keep developing the person that you are into better and better versions. Use the years of your life like the codes to a computer program. Excel 2.1 should be better than 2.0. Different to say the least but hopefully better in many ways.

Stay true to form but keep that form improving!

Pete

Blogpost, posh, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

My Own Shame in the Beautiful Game

Over the years, I’ve claimed that I’m not “obsessed” with Peterborough United. Like so many _____aholics, I’m in at least partial denial about my addiction. Since our form has been poor for much of the season and goals have been lacking, I find myself desiring a bit of help from the football gods. When one of our players streaks forward, I find myself shouting “get in the box” to people on a computer screen who can’t hear me from across the ocean. Perhaps someone out there can relate. It’s not that I want my team to dive in order to get the penalty. I just know that the opportunity is there for an “easy road” to a goal. Torn by the desire for a score but not wanting the dive either.

The easy road mentality is one that we all adopt in different amounts. Lottery ticket buyers, crash diet enthusiasts and overnight success seekers are just the extreme versions of a person that we’ve all been in small or large quantities. We’ve all wanted the big reward for the least amount of effort before. There is nothing particularly wrong with it. It’s a natural inclination but it just cannot become an overarching strategy. The person or team that is relying on something for almost nothing will find that cash cow dead sooner rather than later.

Since I know that this type of thinking is not a long term strategy, my belief is that my team will start finding the net from open play regularly. When those lucky breaks come, I won’t lament them but I know that we cannot rely on them. The plan needs to be more than hope in this world. Hope is not a strategy! Even as a feeling, it seems a little flimsy to me. Hope feels almost desperate and passive. Belief is much more positive and proactive. Despite the positive connotations though, belief is not enough.

Once you believe, you need to act. Take the feedback that the world gives you and adjust. There is not one way to break down an opposing team or get to a personal goal. Literally thousands or even millions are possible but you need to find one. Once you find success, you can build upon it. Here in lies the problem of relying on the penalty. It requires other people’s input that is less than reliable. So believe in yourself enough to create your own results. The “easy road” is there but it doesn’t make you better. It makes you dependent.

Go for the goal with intention!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

MAN City: A Need for Change and Reflection

My distaste for Man City, the club, has been stated before but that’s not really what this is about. The second season of Ted Lasso had a great episode that did a masterful job of slaloming through stereotypes of male behavior and some of their antitheses. My love for this show is well documented but this is one time where the message hits a little deeper than the positivity that Ted disperses so willingly. Men are shown being the worst versions of ourselves while other moments are almost aspirational about what we could be. If you’ve not watched the series or the episode, there are spoilers below, so hop to it before you read farther or just deal.

Ted and his staff being vulnerable before a match.

Although Ted is the namesake of the show, several characters step up in this emotional episode. Jamie Tartt’s strained relationship with his father is one of the main storylines. Jamie’s need for a positive father figure was set up in the first season and put on full display in this episode. Although his father is an extreme version of a stereotype, he conjures the feelings that many of us men have had. The desire to make our father proud while also seeing their faults as we grow older. It is never as simple as a TV show must make a situation but all of the markers are there. The dynamic between fathers and sons is often strained due to the desire for independence and the inherent factor of emulation. Through the influence of Ted and Tartt’s own experience, Jamie sees his father’s negatives and begins to move in a different direction. Eventually he literally fights against his father’s way. At that moment, he is distraught, feeling the weight of what has just happened. Roy Kent, who usually puts forth a caveman-like persona, shows empathy and understanding by hugging his former rival. It’s a scene that jumps right out of a Brené Brown Ted Talk. Vulnerability is a superpower that men do not always employ.

Following along the vulnerability track, Ted opens up to his staff about the fact that a panic attack and not food poisoning had him running for the locker room in the Tottenham match. Each man in the group admits to something that he’s been holding back for some time. Ted’s vulnerability is seen as an opportunity by Nate who uses what he’s learned to expose and undercut Ted. This is the fear that most men have about vulnerability. It leaves us open to enemies, detractors and the like. The problem with this fear is that it is completely accurate. People can take advantage of a situation and many do. It’s a short term game but it works to their advantage enough to make it enticing. There is a balance to be struck here. Putting on the facade of invulnerability is an overall losing strategy. However, being vulnerable with everyone has its own perils that should definitely be avoided. It’s more art than science, like so many things.

Although Nate hasn’t fully shown his true colors in this episode, we get glimpses of the fact that he is employing a “fingers before thumbs” mentality which is the exact opposite of what I suggest regularly. Nate wants to blame others for anything and everything. He claims that he wants to be in charge. However, he lacks the mental fortitude to accept criticism when things go poorly despite wanting praise when they go well. His newly found power and fame make him into a bully who regularly victimizes people that he views as weaker. The willingness to see one’s own faults is a strength that needs to be developed over time. A mirror can be a powerful tool provided that it is not turned into a weapon used to self-flagellate. Another art of manhood is knowing when to point the thumb at one’s self before resorting to the finger. It’s more than likely that it will be employed incorrectly at times but my preference is always to find my faults before I start looking for others’.

Despite my dislike for Man City, the club, I am very happy with Man City, the episode. It brings to the forefront a discussion of modern roles of masculinity. By no means does it develop a definitive set of directives. However, it does juxtapose antiquated stereotypes with newer ideals. Being a man in a modern world can be a bit confusing. The messaging that is thrown at us from the past, present and future can sound like white noise. In the end, we need to see our responsibility to ourselves and those around us.

“Butts on three!”

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Winning Championships: Soccer Life Balance

Almost everyone is interested in winning championships.  It’s a special feeling to realize that type of dream.  I’ve done it several times in my playing and coaching careers.  The most important thing about winning championships is that you cannot focus on getting the trophy.  The trophy is merely a symbol and what it represents is far more important than the metal, wood and plastic.  The symbol represents the willingness to prepare on a higher level than most and the fortitude to put a performance on the field at the key moments.  In all of the championships that I’ve won, I’ve never been conflicted about winning even though I know that in most cases we were not the “best team”.  We were just the best team on that particular day.  That is nothing to be concerned by.  Managing the moment is just as important as high level preparation but let’s begin with preparation.

To prepare for a championship run, an individual or team needs to put themselves through more than they think they will encounter.  A projection must be made about what a championship performance would look like.  Then preparation must be done to endure that and more.  Working backward from the projected championship, the road should be broken into sections.  Perhaps months or weeks, those chunks of time should have a goal or marker.  Each one of those periods then needs to be broken down to the daily.  Then broken down again into the hourly.  Then broken down again to the moment.  When you get your preparation down to the moment level, you’ll need to develop your ethos or principles.  You most likely won’t want to script your actions down to the moment but as you look at all that is in front of you, what are the beliefs and mindset that will aid you and propel you toward your championship run.  Before you can become a champion, you need to think like a champion.  Not about the person who has won the trophy but rather the person capable of winning on every single occasion.  Developing a belief system that will spur you on at the difficult times.  That will keep you grounded when success comes your way.  These “commandments” do not come down from a higher power but come from you and what you value most.  Just recognize that these beliefs need to be in line with the level of your ambition.  Leading with belief is key to any grand success.  Chasing an unknown future requires a belief so strong that it will not be broken by the mundane or the difficult.  Every day something will be required in your pursuit that you will not want to do.  Doing those things in spite of your feelings is a key indicator to whether or not you’ll make it.  Oh yeah!  That’s the gamble!  You need to be willing to do all of this work with the knowledge that you might fail.  It’s possible that you’ll put in all of the work, prepare to your utmost and still come up short.  Can you live with that?  I often jokingly say to groups “When the going gets tough, give up!”  For some people, actually quite possibly most people, this is the perfect advice for what they want.  They don’t want things to be hard.  So giving up is the perfect answer to their problem.  Don’t do the hard things, only do enough to meet the most minimum requirements.  Talk is cheap and doesn’t get you very far (ironic coming from someone who make a living giving speeches).  The statement is true however.  Words can be powerful but they will always come up short in propelling you forward without some form of action.  So take those beliefs and hone them, develop them.  “I quit when the reps are done, not when they hurt.”  These little types of statements will calcify your belief system if they are repeated over and over then followed up with action.  A statement like the one above means nothing coming from someone perched on a couch watching Netflix.  It means something from the person drenched in sweat and gasping for air. 

Your championship level is also something that you should consider.  Perhaps your championship is not a championship at all at the moment.  Perhaps it’s winning one game or scoring a goal.  The idea is not the trophy or the position in a ranking but more about who you become as a person or group.  The moment will fade.  The memory may not even be permanent but the person that you become from the experience will move forward into the world better prepared to take future steps. 

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Put On Your Jersey: Soccer Life Balance

There are some jerseys that are absolute international symbols.  Some jerseys are so well known that a color combination can spark the association.  People do not need to search for the things that they value most, they jump right out of the crowd. 
Therefore it is in your best interest to put on your uniform.  Not that you wear the shirt of your team everywhere but rather that you put your truest self out on display.  There are two people living inside of you.  The person that you are and the person that you want to be.  Although I’m a huge fan “fake it ‘til you make it”, let’s start with getting comfortable in your own skin.  This does not happen in a day.  If you’re there already, AWESOME!  Rejoice in that fact because it’s not true for everyone. 

If you’re not there yet, then there is one place to start: the first person.  There is only one person that will be with you for your entire life, every second that you’re alive, no matter what you can never get rid of them.  That person is you.  You can complain about your disadvantages or idolize someone else but no matter what you can only be you.  Since you only have this one person to spend your life with, it makes sense to have them be a friend.  You need to treat yourself well.  This goes back to all of the things that have been covered so far.  Your chances of feeling good about yourself are exponentially better if you’ve taken control of your internal dialogue and the things that you focus on.  BUT WAIT A MINUTE!  This section was titled, Put on the Jersey.  Jerseys are an outward expression of who you are.  You’re absolutely right!  But the things that we project on the outside are often a representation of what we’re feeling on the inside.  So we need to start there.

Some practical advice on making yourself more of a friend.  Think of the things that you would do to let a friend know that you like them. 
• You’d spend time with them (meditation)
• You’d make them a priority (journaling)
• If they’re going through a tough time, you’d console and try to help them (journaling)
• You’d let the little things go (post-it notes of forgiveness)
• You’d try to work through the big things (letters of forgiveness)

This sounds kind of weird when you consider doing these things for yourself.  So it takes a bit of deliberate practice.  My suggestions on activities usually involve writing because it is tangible and requires a bit of focus.  Thinking is great but lends itself toward the mind wandering.  So putting things down on paper forces you to organize your thoughts a bit more.  As daily as possible, write down gratitude statements.  Write as many things that you can think of that you’re thankful for.  This exercise gets you to focus on what you have.  It’s much like brushing your teeth.  Doing it once does almost nothing.  When you make it a practice, then it becomes extremely powerful.  This type of journaling mixed with a daily discussion of your thoughts will take you a long way down the road of befriending yourself which is the entire point. 

Once you’ve gotten more comfortable with the inside world, you’ll be in a better position to project the traits that you want into the outside world.  Who do you choose to be?  What is the story that you tell yourself about yourself?  Personally I refer to myself as the “Sword of Gryffindor”.  I show up when the people who matter need help and I am improved by the things that have the potential to damage me.  This is the story that I’ve created for myself and the one that I do my best to project out into the world. 

Suit up!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Line the Field: Soccer Life Balance

The boundaries of the field are an essential component to the game.  They dictate exactly how much space, the team or individual has to work within.  In soccer there are well defined standards regarding the dimensions and distances for fields depending on the age and type of game to be played.  Even in practice, a coach sets up areas for players to exercise their skills within.  Setting these boundaries correctly can be the difference between players finding success or failure. 

While the lines on the field are usually some color of paint put onto grass (real or otherwise), the lines on the field of your life are much more metaphorical.  They are the boundaries that you set up for yourself in a variety of ways.  They are the limits that you put on yourself regarding what you are capable of, what you will and won’t do morally, your “comfort zone” and many other versions of mental models.  The first thing to recognize is that some of these “fields” have been lined by other people in your life. You need to decide (eventually) whether or not to move or even get rid of the lines on these fields.

Even though we’re all playing the same game of life, some people have boxed themselves into a small space. Others seems to have almost no boundaries whatsoever. The thing that we must realize on some level is that they are mostly arbitrary. We can decide to change the boundaries: geography, relationships, habits, attitudes, beliefs and rules. Sure there are societal boundaries that we live by but mostly we draw the lines for our own lives. Are the lines that you’ve drawn for yourself allowing you to play the game in the way that you want? If not, then redraw them. No one else can do it. It’s your game and your field. Don’t play on a postage stamp.

Pete
 

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

The Beautiful Game Has Become Ugly

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” – Oscar Wilde

There are many people who would push back on me suggesting that soccer is an art form. That’s completely fine! A bunch of paint splatters or a urinal hung in a museum are not my cup of tea either. Given that art is subjective and mediums have change through time, I don’t think that I’m out of line to call the beautiful game, ART. Some of the best actors do not read from a script. Musicians jam and vamp with their bandmates far from the notes that are on the page. So in my estimation, a group of eleven people trying to find rhythm from chaos is a form of ballet as much as it is a sport. Whether you buy into my belief or not, at bare minimum, you understand where I’m coming from.

Painting of Pele by Andres Ramos.
Art imitating art!

Now let me take it back to the Oscar Wilde quote. Other people can dissect his words in any way that they like. For me, the idea that life imitates art comes from the fact that artists take their medium to extremes. Generally, life is not an extreme sport. In the beginning, humans needed to be conservative with their actions because our survival depended upon it. Even though there were cave paintings, they weren’t of spaceships or a flying squirrel suit. They showed hunters going after an animal. The art was in line or one step ahead of the time but it gave others something to imitate. As we progressed forward, the media of arts expanded and gave expression to the order of the day as well as more extreme ideas. Did the myths about the gods come about to explain them or give people license to emulate them?

Now that I’ve taken you through my thought process, I believe that our world is in distress due to our art. It’s not as simple as Tipper Gore would have liked. Her labels on explicit albums did not change the releasing of the art that she disliked. She simply made it taboo and therefore more desirable. Since the art that I care about is soccer, I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole. I am concerned about the artists on the field.

Soccer is called “the beautiful game” because it is a glory to behold when it is in its natural state. Eleven people trying to get the ball into the goal of the other team while defending their own. A match can have the highs and lows of a great symphony and all of the drama of a Greek tragedy. There is no lack of opportunity to raise the emotional experience to the heights that only artists can. An actor can give an audience chills when they personify a moment so perfectly with their earnestness. Unfortunately the hack actor can also nauseate an audience by faking it, not being true to the role and using tricks to skate by. It’s sad to see but that’s where we are. Players looking to game the system for the outcome rather than earnestly trying to get the result through their art. None of this is new and I know that my short musing about it will change little.

However, I truly believe that the flopping, diving and play acting has affected the world because soccer is art. Therefore, this writing, which is also an art form, could help to counteract it. A pebble in the pond, no doubt but I hope that it will ripple. If the artists who are playing at the highest level were to give up the hack tactics for a short time, would it change everything? Would kids stop flopping and taking the easy way? Would government officials stop taking shortcuts that hurt the people in their care? Would life again imitate art as it has so many times through history? I don’t know! I’d like to believe that it could. The problem is that so many things have become a business and art is a gift! So hopefully, some of the artists on the field can remember that they are making art to give to the world and it’s more than just the result. We’re all watching to be inspired toward our future selves. If you make “hack art” we’ll believe that that is en vogue. BUT if you give the gift of true expression with earnest effort, we’ll reflect that back as well.

Be an artist today!

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Knee, Balls, Chest: The Anti-Neymar

There is no doubt that it was a foul. He had never even attempted to get the ball. His body barreled through mine with such great force that we were both lying off the field by about a yard. He got up first and as he did, stepped on my knee with one foot, then my balls with the second and the first foot returned on my chest. Since Neymar was only one year old when this happened, I did not know that I was supposed to roll around on the ground like I’d been shot twelve times. So I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time. I got up! We were leading in the game against our biggest rival. Although we couldn’t be certain that a win would lead to a Conference Championship, a loss would make it impossible. There was no choice. I had to get up because that’s exactly what team needed me to do.

Wrapped within that decision was a lot of programming that came from my parents, brothers, coaches, teachers, friends and generation overall. Yes! I had been fouled horrendously. Yes! I had also been stomped on. Yes! I was in pain. And YES! I did not want to get up!

There is nothing special about my actions of that day. It was a moment in time similar to those of many people. The trifecta of the knee, balls and chest did strike a chord with me recently when I was thinking about how many people tend to deal with set backs.

In my mind, I’m equating the KNEES with faith. Many religions use the kneeling position in a variety of ways. Faith that things are going to live up to our expectations is a pretty usual pain point. As soon as something is “out of whack”, it stings a little. Our faith is shaken, even if it just for that event. While faith is a necessary ingredient to many endeavors, it is not an inexhaustible resource. Also the amount needed varies greatly.

Sorry that this is a semi-exclusionary descriptor. Although female readers have never gotten hit in the BALLS, I’m sure that there must be an equivalent. The soft spot where the pain is greater than a normal hit and it lingers. While the shot to the knee hurts our faith, the shot to balls leaves an ache that possibly we are less than we were before. Even though it’s not always intended to be, a shot to the balls feels personal.

The final shot was to the chest which represents the HEART. It is the place that our literal lifeblood is pumped throughout our body. A shot to the heart (and you’re to blame, you give love a bad name…. sorry Bon Jovi flashback) can be deadly if it happens at the wrong angle on the wrong day. That’s why our heart is housed in a literal cage of bone. It must be protected at all costs. Although it’s possible to recover, the heart is necessary to move forward.

So now that I’ve taken a minuscule moment and broadened it out to almost any emotional pain that we might feel as humans, what is the point? The point is that we must get up. We’ve become far too comfortable with Neymaring the fouls that we encounter in life. Turning a mere tap on the knee into a 12 gauge shot to the chest. Rolling around on the figurative ground as if life had dealt us a bad hand by putting any impediments between us and our goals. It would be one thing if we were simply that fragile. If our metaphorical bones were as brittle as “Mr. Glass” from the M. Night Shyamalan movies, it would make sense. The thing is that they are not. Our bones are the same stone-like implements that our ancestors had. We’ve just made some poor assumptions about what we can handle or been sold on the idea that struggle isn’t necessary.

My hope is that you don’t get hit at all but when you do, don’t Neymar it. Get up! Or even better, don’t fall down in the first place. More than likely, you can handle what has been thrown at you. You’re a descendent of the people that helped to make humans the apex predators on the planet. The tools that you have at your disposal are all that you need.

Don’t flop! You’re better than that!

Pete